Psychodelics and Plant Medicine

Psyched Out: Documentary on Psychodelics and Plant Medicine

Directed by Giovani Bartolomeo (2018)

Film Review

The first video below is a documentary based mainly on the work of the late Terrence McKenna, a US ethnobotanist who was one of the first to investigate the healing effects of psychodelic plants. The film also features contemporary psychodelics advocates Dr Gabor Mate and British author and journalist Graham Hancock. The second video concerns a bank robber who was trained as an ayahuasca* shaman by a fellow prisoner.

Psyched Out begins by tracing the history of psychodelic use in healing and religious ceremonies. DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) was widely used by ancient Egyptians. McKenna believes Moses was under the influence of DMT when the burning bush spoke to him. He also suggests the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden was actually the amanita mushroom. He also also sees a fundamental role for psylocybin in the supercharged evolution of the human brain occurring 15,000 – 20,000 years ago.

Between 3,000 – 1,500 BC, the use of psychodelics in healing and religious ceremonies occurred in all major civilizations. It ended in Western civilization in the 4th century AD with the Roman emperor Constantine’s formalization of the Catholic Church as a political body. Beginning with European colonization in the 15th century, psychodelics were banned nearly everywhere in the world.

McKenna and others believe the early church banned psychodelics because their role in expanding consciousness (ie these plants make people aware of their unconscious processes) leads people to question their fundamental beliefs about authority and their role in society.

For me the most interesting part of the film were the testimonials given by three patients who took ayahuasca and experienced total remission of longstanding opiate addiction, panic disorder/insomnia, and incapacitating scleroderma.**

I was also intrigued to learn of important discoveries and inventions directly related to psychodelic use, including the DNA double helix, the polymerase chain reaction, and several of Steve Jobs’ innovative Apple products.


*Ayahuasca is a hallucinatory tea made from a plant and vine containing DMT.

** Scleroderma is a group of autoimmune diseases that may result in changes to the skin, blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs. The disease can be either localized to the skin or involve both skin and other organs.

Kentucky Ayahuasca Episode 7

Vice (2019)

Film Review

I normally hate reality TV, but that was before I watched Kentucky Ayahuasca. Steve Hupp offers two-day Ayahuasca ceremonies with his wife and two apprentice therapist With 15 years experience, he boasts an 80% success rate for refractory PTSD, depression, and addiction and bipolar disorders.

Although, as a Schedule 1 drug, ayahuasca is illegal in the US, Native Americans are allowed to use it in religious ceremonies. Hupp calls his church the Aya Quest Native American church.

Readers can view the entire Kentucky Ayahuasca series at

https://video.vice.com/en_us/show/kentucky-ayahuasca

Reclaiming Our History: the Myth of Britain’s “Dark Ages”

King Arthur’s Britain

Directed by Francis Pryor (2005)

Film Review

This is a series of three documentaries using modern archeological techniques to explode common myths we’re taught about the history of Britain and the “savages” who were allegedly “civilized” by the Romans and the Catholic church.

In Part 1, filmmakers challenge notions that Rome violently invaded and occupied Britain in 43 AD. Archeological remains suggest that early Britons (Celts) traded with Rome and became acquainted with their literature during the century preceded the alleged Roman invasion. It also appears ones of the British tribal kings requested Rome to send troops to protect him against enemy invaders. I was fascinated to learn that Gnosticism* persisted in Britain long after Constantine banned it (in 380 AD).

Part 2 disputes historical claims that British civilization and culture collapsed after Roman legions withdrew and the designation of the period 410 – 597 AD ad the “Dark Age. In 597 AD Pope Gregory sent St Augustine to England to convert the (Gnostic) Anglo Saxons to Christianity.

Part 3 challenges the myth of the Anglo Saxon invasion that allegedly occurred in the fifth century. Isotope analysis and a new technique called gradeometry suggest what really happened was a gradual assimilation of Germanic (primarily Fresian, Angle and Saxon) immigrants over the period 2,000 BC to 500 AD. The effect of this assimilation can also be seen in the Celtic influence over the development of the English language. The latter differs markedly from other Germanic languages. See Hidden History: The Myth of Anglo Saxon Purity


*Gnosticism refers to a collection of early pagan, Jewish and Christian beliefs which maintained that followers could instinctively experience the presence of God without the intermediation of a priesthood.

The Ancient Use of Psychodelic Herbs

DMT: A Lost History

Chris Rice (2015)

Film Review

This is a documentary about ancient civilizations’ use of psychodelic plants in religious ceremonies. Unlike his more recent Hidden History of Cannabis, the evidence Rice presents is this film is more circumstantial. Yet in my view, the documentary leaves little doubt that dimethyltryptamine (DMT) containing plants were used in religious ceremonies in ancient Egypt, India, Persia, Greece and possibly ancient Israel.

DMT is the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a psychodelic herb used throughout early South American cultures. It currently shows great promise in the treatment of alcohol and other drug addictions and PTSD (see Ayahuasca and Addiction). It can be smoked or taken by mouth. When taken by mouth, it must be combined with a second herb containing an MAO inhibitor to keep it from being degraded in the gut.

The ancient Egyptians derived DMT from  the acacia plant (Acacia nilotica), which they referred to as “The Tree of Life.”

The ancient Hindu Vedas refer to “soma,” an elixir that allegedly enabled practitioners to “commune with God.” Rice believes soma was derived from DMT containing herbs and may be responsible for much of the psychodelic art produced in ancient India. Sacred Zorastrian texts from ancient Persia also refer to “soma.” Ancient Greek texts refer to mystical ceremonies involving similar herbal elixirs.

Rice points to evidence that the “manna” (literally gift from God) provided to Israelites in their flight out of Egypt may actually have been DMT-containing mushrooms. A number of the original gospels describe to Christ offering “mana” to his disciples, though most of them were removed from the Catholic Bible when emperor Constantine banned the Gnostic sects.

The section of the film I found most interesting describes how use of DMT persisted in the rituals of numerous secret societies, including the Freemasons. Although there is no written record of Freemasonry prior to the 17th century, their oral tradition contains accounts of early Masonic rituals involving potions made from the acacia tree.